Novelette: All works should be considered FICTION whether true or not.
” A Twist of Art “
Cynthia Ann came from a very poor family. For that matter; all of the kids attending Columbian Grade School in the 50s were very poor. They all lived in a very impoverished part of Kansas City, Kansas. Despite this, Cynthia had a lot going for her. From a very young age she was an attractive girl, a natural beauty. She was tall for her age, trim, athletic build, long flowing dark brown hair (so dark it almost looked black), and she had a sparkle of intelligence that was undeniable in her brown eyes. Long lashes and delicate eyebrows. Whenever she looked at a person they couldn’t help but feel like she was in the know on whatever was being discussed. It’s hard to explain. It’s just that she had very wise and knowing eyes. It was often said that Cynthia had “an old sole”.
Cynthia always applied herself in school. She wasn’t as interested in her grade s particularly, but rather, her interest was that she genuinely wanted to learn. With an inquisitive mind that was very analytical she questioned everything and challenged the teachers to stay on top of the subjects. Teachers frequently would complain to the Principal that Cynthia was trying to make them look bad when challenging what they said, but the Principal knew Cynthia. She knew this wasn’t the case. She would explain to the teachers not to take it personally. Miss Whintler knew if the teacher would give Cynthia a chance they would learn to love her. Cynthia’s interests were not limited to school subjects either. Her curiosity ran the gauntlet of every subject and in every direction. She had quite the adhesive mind and could grasp anything she was taught. This was a rare trait in a young girl.
Not surprisingly Cynthia was she was a natural born leader. No matter what was going on at school, all the other children would just assume that Cynthia was going to be a captain, group leader or best in the class. It was just understood by everyone. She had a dynamic personality that bled charisma. And drive too. Cynthia had an unfettered amount of energy and ambition. No speed for her except full speed.
Throughout grade school and high school Cynthia’s best friend was Cheryl. The two of them were inseparable. Any school event, social event, church and even dating; if you saw one girl you were likely to see both. Cheryl was no slob in the looks department either. By any standards Cheryl was a beauty, trim, blond, amply endowed as the years went by, and very pretty in the face, but there was just something about Cynthia. She was head and shoulders above all the other girls in school in the looks department.
After high school Cynthia received a full ride scholarship to an out of state college. Her scholarships were for both basketball and academics. Valedictorian and straight “A’s”, combined with three years varsity letter in basketball, pretty well assured Cynthia was going to offered a number of scholarships.
Unfortunately Cheryl did not have the “gray matter” for academics like Cynthia, or did she have the great athletic abilities that Cynthia had. Cynthia tried desperately to convince Cheryl to follow her footsteps to college, but Cheryl knew that she didn’t have what it takes. No matter how much Cynthia begged or cajoled Cheryl, Cheryl wouldn’t agree to be swayed by Cynthia’s pleadings. What made Cynthia finally drop it was when Cheryl pointed out that even Cynthia could barely afford to go to college with a full ride scholarship; how could Cheryl afford to go when trying to foot the bill all on her own?
Cynthia attacked her college career at the University of Hawaii with the same enthusiasm and energy s high school. In her freshman year she made first string in women’s basketball and conquered all her classes as well. And the boys? She was the heartthrob of the campus. She had many boys pursuing her from the University of Hawaii and other schools too. Where ever she went she drew boys like flies to honey. She was on the student council and class officer too. She was involved in the Photography Club and Journalism as well as Science Ambassador to the regional’s.
One afternoon when Cynthia went to her mail slot in the student union she found a note from her Advisor, Beverly Manning. The note said, “Could you possibly see me this afternoon at 2 P.M. ?” Signed Beverly. Cynthia had to rearrange her schedule slightly, but at 2 P.M. she was knocking on Beverly Manning’s office door.
Beverly welcomed Cynthia in and they hugged. Beverly and Cynthia had become hard, fast friends since Cynthia had came to the University. Just like most people who get to know Cynthia, Beverly knew that Cynthia was a special person. Beverly was a petite lady about 35 years old, with medium born hair, hazel eyes and an inviting smile. She was the kind of person that was easy to warm up to.
“Please have a seat Cynthia. I need to have a very serious conversation with you, and I want you to think about and give very serious consideration o what I’m going to say. Okay?”
Cynthia did not know what to make of Beverly’s little entry conversation and was very apprehensive about what was to come. She couldn’t think of anything she had done wrong.
“Yes, of course Mrs. Manning.” was Cynthia’s reply.
Beverly continued, “First of all dear I want to make sure that you know that I consider you a friend as well as one of the students here at the University of Hawaii.”
” I know that Mrs. Manning, and I do appreciate you saying so.”
“So Cynthia, I want to make sure that you understand that everything I am telling you coming from a pure heart, a heart of love. A heart that only has your absolute best interest in mind. I am considerably older than you, and I’ve had a lot more exposure to college life, and life in general, than you have. I’ve been watching you, your activities, your involvements and the dynamics of your college experience. Which is of course, my job as your Advisor. With this being your first year of college, your first year away from family and old friends, and your first year as a real celebrity with almost unlimited freedom. I feel that I need to give you some personal advice that I believe will serve you for the rest of your life. Okay?”
“Yes, I’d appreciate it,” said Cynthia.
Mrs. Manning continued, “First, a few facts about college. You’ll her a lot of talk about the importance of the absolute best grades you can get. This year we will have about 20 students graduating as “Suma Cum Laude”. This, of course, means they graduated with honors and have had straight “A”s for their entire four year career here at the University. This is a great honor, and if a straight “A” student is going into Law or Med School this is highly desirable to get into the best law school or medical school, but, (and this is a big but), I would further guess that only one of the last 60 Suma Cum Laude’s is truly happy without suffering from total neurosis and stress. Wouldn’t you say that one out of 60is not very good odds?”. Then she continued, ” Next; various college activities need to be discussed. These activities and the people associated with them will drain you dry if you let them. Many of the people in these activities live for these activities and nothing else. They are not spreading themselves thin with these groups. Always remember, there is not a single program here at the University that is going to blow up, or collapse without your participation. Just because there aare over 00 clubs does not mean that you must be involved and heading up, every one of them. Do you understand?”
“Okay.” said Cynthia
“Next.” Continued Mrs. Manning “Remember this is your life, not someone else;s. It’s as important to be a well rounded person and to have fun as it is to be productive. My Go, Cynthia! You’re in Hawaii. You’re a Kansas girl living in Hawaii ! If you want to have a truly successful college career, even a gifted student like you, must think of them self as having limits. I suggest that you compare yourself to a gallon of paint.
“A gallon on paint?” said Cynthia.
“Yes, a gallon of paint. A gallon of paint can be the highest quality paint possible. It can be made of the purest chemicals and kept at the precise temperatures. Whoever uses your paint can be the world’s best painter and using only the best paint brush and supplies. But…….I promise you this Cynthia. You are only one gallon of paint. Your are not enough paint to paint an entire house no matter how think you are spread.
“Are you getting my point Cynthia?”
Second, let’s talk about life itself, ” Beverly said. “I know you are a gifted athlete, intelligent, dynamic, driven and beautiful. I do not want to encourage you to abandon your standards of excellence, but I would be remiss if I did not point out a few things about perfection. A former student once pointed out something to me that I want to share with you. When a person gets a medical degree that degree will say “Doctor”. If doesn’t say first in class, or last in class, or straight “A”s. It simply says Doctor. What I’m getting at Sweety, is prioritizing. Your priorities need to be friends, and family for you base and academics for your career. School is NOT your life. Your life is somewhere out there with the rest of the world. Yes, you have to put greater emphasis on the subject you are going to Major in, but don’t be so anal as to think you must be the best in every class you take. If you take a class in basket weaving, remember that this will not be your future career. Some classes are just for fun and edification. God won’t die if you pull a “B” in a fun class. Concentrate on being a well rounded person rather than perfect.”
After talking for another 20 minutes, Cynthia and Beverly hugged goodbye. Cynthia did as Beverly suggested and gave their talk some very serious consideration. She decide not to “paint the house” with her one gallon of paint.
“I am a young woman, I am in Hawaii, and I am building memories to last a lifetime.” she told herself.
Cynthia dropped out of many of the extracurricular activities no matter how much people begged her not to. She continued making straight “A”s, but did sign up for a couple of pud electives for future semesters. This allowed her more free time to enjoy the beauties of Hawaii, the beaches, the scenery, the people and traditions. She even took up surfing, which absolutely loved.
It was expected by everyone that Cynthia would become a professional basketball player, a doctor, a lawyer, or a fashion mode. However, Cynthia’s heart did not run in those directions. Her heart was drawn to art. There was nothing that made her heart flutter like a day at the museum. The beauty, the textures, the smells, the creative use of lighting and movement. This creative genus of the artists is what drew Cynthia into the realm of her passion.
When Cynthia was playing in a woman’s basketball tournament at the Madison Square Garden in New Your City, Cynthia fell in love with the New York Museum of Art. While wandering through the the exhibits for hours, she was so absorbed that she actually missed the first quarter of the elimination game.
Cynthia loved art, especially paintings and drawings. It didn’t matter to her if the work was impressionistic, surrealism, abstract, conceptual, cubism, pop, hyper-realism or futurism. She loved them all, and it didn’t matter who the artist was either. She loved Anthonly Falbo, LeRoy Neiman, Rembrandt, Leonardo De Vinci, Michelangelo, Van Gough, Munch or Salvador Dali, they were all magical. She was just as enamored with unknown artist too, as long as she could see a flare in their work, had good balance and use of colors and framing.
One of the young men Cynthia had dated her junior year, Peter, was the son of a modeling agency executive. After graduation she accepted a modeling assignment with Peter’s father. She would be working in Paris, France. The gig covered all expenses as well as having very lucrative pay. After the show his father was so impressed that he wanted her to sign on as one of his full time house models, but Cynthia turned him down. Modeling was not her dream.
Cynthia had two days before she had to go back to the States. She was in heaven. She spent two days at the Louvre. It took her breath away. She didn’t care if she ate or drank. She just wanted to take in every sight, every brush stroke, every play of lighting, and was beside herself when she was able to meet the Curator of the Louvre. And coincidentally, Mari-Laure de Rochebrune was anxious to meet Cynthia too.
Marie was thrilled to meet Cynthia because she had fallen in love with Cynthia’s style, grace and beauty when Marie went to the fashion show where Cynthia was modeling. Marie had no idea that Cynthia had a degree in Art and Antiquities as well as Museum Management from the University of Hawaii, or that Cynthia had actually visited the Pyramids in Egypt and the Mayan Temples in South America.
After the museum closed Cynthia and Marie-Laure de Rochebrune went together to sample some of the fine French wines at a local sidewalk cafe that Marie frequented. Cynthia and Marie had great conversations. They enjoyed fine wines selected by France’s top Master Sommelier, and delighted in cheeses and breads selected to accompany the chosen wines. What a delightful evening it was for Cynthia. This was a dream come true, Cynthia could not have created a better heaven on earth.
After Marie learned more about Cynthia she approached Cynthia with an offer for an internship at the Louvre. Cynthia was sorely tempted, but something from deep within told her that this was not where her path was to be.
When Cynthia got back to the States she had several requests for interviews with museums around the country and the world. She turned most of them down immediately. This would be her first working experience and she did not want to start at the top. A Curator’s position was not what she was looking for and this is what most of the offers were.
There was one offer however, that did make Cynthia’s eyes light up when she saw it. It was an offer of a job as an intern at the Nelson Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, Missouri. This was her home town. This is where her family live. This is where her childhood and high school friends are. The Nelson position really appealed to her.
Cynthia took the job. Her first assignment was a new and exciting exhibition of the works of the most famous Kansas City Artist and Native, Norman Rockwell. Cynthia was familiar with Mr. Rockwell’s work, of course, especially all the works for the Saturday Evening Post and the Boy Scouts of America, but considering how widely he had been covered, and the large number of books that had been published about his works; Cynthia was having difficulty coming up with something new and unknown about Mr. Rockwell. She had to find the Glicken ( that something extra).
One of the first things Cynthia had learned about curating an exhibition was that no matter how great the work, how great the artist, or how great the subject matter, the curator must, absolutely must, present something new and fresh to offer the public. People always want to feel that they are familiar with an artist and their works, but they also are looking to learn something new and fresh. They must leave with new face on the artist and they need to feel as if they have touched his soul.
Cynthia threw herself hook line and sinker into the assignment. She was working 16 to 18 hour days and wearing herself out. Research, interviews, and reading everything she could get her hands on. Cynthia was feeling exhausted and feeling faint, but no matter what she did she could not find the Glicken.
Feeling so weary that she thought she was going to drop, she remembered what Mrs. Manning, her former Advisor from the University of Hawaii, had told her. “Balance, Cynthia. Remember your top priorities. Friends and family.” A light went off in Cynthia’s head. “Priorities.” Cynthia said herself. “Here I am in my own home town. I haven’t taken advantage of checking it out to see how it has changed in the last six years. I’ve not seen any new sites, or visited the old haunts. I’m working at the Nelson Art Gallery, just on the edge of the Country Club Plaza, and I haven’t even spent one hour shopping or taking advantage of any of the fine dinning establishments. I did drop in on my parents a couple of times, but we haven’t done anything together yet, despite my Mothers pleadings, we haven’t even shared a bottle of wine together. What am I thinking?”
” Jesus Christ ! What about Cheryl. I can’t believe that I’ve been back in KC for almost six weeks and haven’t even called my oldest and dearest friend. For goodness sake, I haven’t seen my best friend in over six years, and not a single phone call to her since getting back. What kind of an asshole am I? ” She told herself, “This stops right now.”
After five rings the voice mail recording came on.
“Hi, this is Cheryl. Leave your name and number and I do promise that I’ll call you back when I get your message.”
Cynthia had not wanted to get a voice mail and have to leave a message. She hesitated while she tried to decide what to say. Finally ” Hey, Kiddo.”
The phone instantly picked up on the other end. Cheryl was screaming and shouting with joy. Cynthia could just see Cheryl in her ind, she knew that Cheryl would be jumping up and down with every scream, and dancing around the room. She was probably about to pee her pants. It was at least five minutes before Cheryl calmed down enough for Cynthia to squeeze a word in sideways.
” Oh my God, oh my God, oh my God.” Cheryl was screaming.
“Right back on track,” was Cynthia’s thought. It was as if Cynthia had never left. It was like they had just talked and seen each other yesterday. After a long conversation the girls decided to go out on the town Friday night.
“Hey, Cyn, do you remember Skeeter Boyce from high school ?”
” Skeeter and I are engaged.” , Cheryl said.” Why don’t I have him bring his older brother Rick, and we can double date?”
“I don’t know kid. My job is really consuming me and I don’t need any complications in my life right now.” , Cynthia said.
“Look Cyn, Rick is real. He’ll be cool about it. Just explain to him that this is a date that’s not going any where right up front. He’ll understand. Okay. We’ll go dancing and have a few drinks, it’ll be great.”
“Okay, Cheryl. But here’s the deal. Dancing is too noisy and I’m too frazzled for that. How about a nice dinner, some wine and cheese, and then a movie?”
“Deal !” said Cheryl.
Cheryl was right. Rick Boyce was a true gentleman. Cynthia liked him from the moment they met. She felt as comfortable with him as if she’d known him for years. Which unbeknownst to her she actually had, but she hadn’t known who he was when they met years about 10 years ago. Rick was four years ahead of her in high school. All she knew back then was that he was a hunk, a top athlete, blond, blue eyes, and had a reputation of being a stand up guy with the girls he dated.
Conversations flowed, and Rick was genuinely interested in her work.
Cheryl mentioned that Cynthia was a new curator intern at the Art Gallery,and working a special Norman Rockwell Exhibition.
When Rick heard this, his eyes lit up like a Christmas tree.
“Cynthia. since you are in that line of work, and working on the exhibit, let me tell you something that I know you’ll find very interesting.” , he said
Cynthia decided to humor him, “Don’t keep me waiting, Rick.”
“Back in the ‘Old Days’, boys in the Kansas City area were not allowed to get their Eagle Scout Award until they were sixteen years old. It didn’t matter how many merit badges they had, or what they had completed. You had to be sixteen. No sixteen, no Eagle.
By the time of the ceremony I would only be two days short of being sixteen, and my older brother, Gene, had also earned what he needed to get his Eagle Award. The Scoutmaster went to the Boy Scout area Council ( Wagon Wheel Council ), and it was decided by the “Scouting Gods”, that I would be allowed to get my Eagle as well. I think that they thought it was neat that two brothers, two years apart, were getting Scouting’s highest award at the same time.”
” That’s nice, Rick, but what does that have to do with my project. I don’t see the connection. ” , Cynthia said.
Rick continued, “Unbeknownst to me, since I was only a 15 year old kid, the Eagle ceremonies were really a big deal in KC. Lots of dignitaries, City Leaders, ( including former Mayor H. Roe Bartle ), Congressmen, Scouting Professionals, and there was always a class Sponsor. This particular class had about 250 boys getting their Eagle Award. At the beginning of the ceremonies all dignitaries and officials were recognized and then came the grand announcement.
The Sponsor for the 1964 Class of Eagle Scouts was none other than Norman Rockwell. Mr. Rockwell had painted a special Scouting painting for the class. Every member of the class of 64 was given a hand signed print of the painting, and since I was the youngest boy in KC to ever get Eagle, I was given the original signed painting from Norman Rockwell. ”
Rick went on, ” I can pretty much guarantee you that I am the only person you’ll ever meet that can honestly tell you that they lost an original Norman Rockwell painting. ”
Cynthia was flabbergasted. “What do you mean you lost ?”
” Like I said, Cynthia, I was just a kid, and I had no idea who Norman Rockwell was. All I knew was that he was some skinny old man who kept talking about what great future leaders we would be, and all I was interested in was getting off that stage and getting over to where they were serving the cake and ice cream.
Rick makes a face at Cynthia as if to say, ” How stupid is that ?” My brother and I found our Mom in the auditorium. I gave her the original and Gene gave her his print. And off to the cake we went. About a week after the ceremony I asked Mom if I could see the painting. She said she’d forgot all about them and never brought either one of them home with her.
I’m assuming that somewhere there’s a very rich janitor with a Norman Rockwell original and a first print, both hand signed by Norman Rockwell.
Cynthia was blown away. She asked Rick if he could prove his story.
Rick said, ” Who would possibly make up a story like this ? Make up story that makes me, my brother and our Mom all look like three of the dumbest people on the face of the earth ?” “I have no documentation; unless you are willing to count a photo of myself on stage with Norman Rockwell and being presented with the original painting.”
It took Cynthia a few minutes to get her head wrapped around this, but then it dawned on her.
“Now I have my Glicken. I have a unique twist to the Norman Rockwell exhibition. That personal touch that no one else has ever had in any exhibit about Rockwell. And Cynthia would do whatever she could to get her hands on one of the prints, or the original ; “The Lost Rockwell Painting.”
Staff Comment: This may or may not be FICTION whether true or not.
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